Zelda's eyes snapped open as she awoke, as though a switch had been flipped within the recesses of her mind as soon as her body came to realize, even without conscious effort, the aberration she found herself within. Her eyes glanced upward toward the pristine pallet of whites and greys that lined the ceiling, crisscrossed into dark junctions of grout, her brow furrowing in suspicious reverie before her head spun atop her pillow to the side.
Link had left the bed.
An inquisitive stare left her as bewildering thoughts spun around her mind. Where had he gone? Such a thing hadn't ever happened before, and even when it had, she would normally only awaken upon his return, when that arm of his, sinewy strong and lined with muscle, crept along her midsection to pull her into his warm embrace. But on this occasion, she was simply here, alone, left with her thoughts.
Her head turned to the opposite side as she pushed herself upward, seating herself in bed as she took stock of the time, judging simply by the darkness beyond the curtains that it was somewhere in the middle of the night. Knowing of her history, held in some fierce entanglement of destiny with the boy she had known grown to love into adulthood, a gradual pang of worry began to swell in her heart at the pure uncertainty of such a strangely out-of-place phenomenon such as-
Zelda's head jolted toward the doorway, eyes blistering wide in shock while the battled to fight off the terror she had found clawing at her mind. In sheer defiance of that need to take flight, she threw her legs off the bed, her body following as she came to her feet, stepping with a forceful wariness as she clutched the open ends of her silken pajamas, her fist held against her chest leaving her with enough of a defensive posture so as to help radiate some amount if courage throughout her body.
As she swiftly exited the bedroom, stepping quick into the small space that amounted to a tiny apartment-sized living space within the castle, Zelda came to a sudden halt as she stole a breath in confusion.
The man who had been crouched down against the wall, picking up what appeared in the darkness to be a collection of material strewn about the floor, looked up toward her with concern.
"Did I wake you? Sorry."
She sighed, "You don't need to be, but- By the goddess! What happened?!"
Zelda stepped toward Link as he returned to picking up whatever was on the ground, muttering softly, as though in apology, "I got up for some milk. Must've accidentally knocked against the cabinet- One of those pots fell to the ground and shattered."
His eyes turned up to find her approach, warning, "Careful."
She obliged, her eagerness to assist her lover preventing her from merely remained oblivious to any sort of help, though she continued, "Over here? Why were you-?"
Working the logistics through her mind, she frowned with a sigh, "…still worried?"
Link didn't reply immediately, keeping his attention upon the stricken blots of pottery against the dark patterns of the rug beneath them, "I guess I was just pacing for a bit."
"Link," Zelda muttered, pausing her own collecting to reach a hand over toward his shoulder, "My parents are not monsters. They're not going to impale you on sight."
Link's eyes rolled, "I'm only the man who wormed his way into their daughter's good graces, plotting for years to get into her boudoir at the first chance at a conquest."
A pithy sigh left Zelda breathless behind a wry smirk, "You know that's not how it happened."
"It's certainly how your father views it," Link relayed, his voice having hollowed while he took into his hands more bits of clay, "He was already so absorbed that you continued allowing audience with a boy who has no name, no history to speak of."
Zelda smiled, sliding her hand from Link's shoulder up along his neck before it settling at the side of his face, bringing his eyes into her own, "Even if they don't know your history, I do. as esoteric as it all might be."
"More importantly-" she paused for a brief moment, allowing herself a mere moment to express in a smile what she had felt within the past, presently, and even in some future that would no longer be, due to their efforts, "-I know that you shower me with adoration. That you love me for more than political gain or money."
Link sighed, rather perturbed by the ease with which his mind could be quelled by this woman whom he'd come to love. His stoicism had often left him with images of personal depth that were often too deep for even his own mind to wholly understand, yet Zelda traversed his complexities as though she were a skilled cartographer, mapping the labyrinthine passages of his emotions and thoughts as though compelled to some labor of love, one that Link understood, well enough, he could never even hope to match himself.
"Now-" Zelda smiled, pulling away her hand from his face as she stood up, "You finish up and I will make us some tea. We're already up, anyway."
Link shrugged, "I wish I could say the same for this pot."
"It was little more than decoration, if that leaves your mind at ease," Zelda noted plainly, taking a moment to bring light to an oil lantern atop the four-person dining table, "It was a ghastly thing, indeed. I'm pretty sure it only remained here because my mother gifted it to me or something."
She allowed herself to giggle fondly, "She does have a habit of knowing what object to give me, but her métier certainly is not in design. It's always something too odd or distracting for any purpose beyond hiding away in a closet."
Link heard her begin to prepare the tea, a gentle sloshing of water being churned about within their kettle, finishing up the last of the collection of clay as he stood, taking an extended glance atop the small cabinet at his side, where the pot had been knocked off. His eyes glared aimlessly at the thing's terra cotta siblings, eyes narrowing his dizzying focus, only to be broken by Zelda's approach.
He whipped his head to the side as her delicate touch grazed his bare back, causing her smile to fall unceremoniously, "Link. What ails you."
Shrugging, he answered with a listless tone, "It's as you said."
"This isn't just worry," she retorted simply, "There's something else. Something in the way you just looked at me. You were tearing yourself away from a trance."
Link eyed her sarcastically, his brow curving in a meandering slither of feigned suspicion, "You think you know me so well."
"I know I do," she grinned with a coiling of her own design.
Giving a rather boorish breath through his nose, Link reached over to bridge the space between them, closing the palm of his hand against her arm, "Then you know how little I wish to answer."
Zelda's face froze in understanding while Link slid his hand along the silken skin that concealed her arm, "Now, I didn't wish to bother you, yet here you are brewing tea. I would be a terrible man to deny you that offer."
A playful flash of realization crossing her mind, Zelda smirked, "You make it sound like I made it only for you."
"Not at all," Link assured with a chuckle, deep and haunting, like a specter that reverberated against the very air betwixt Zelda's skin, "But of course-"
He reached his hand to take hold of her own, handling her fingers with a dainty hold while raising those slender digits to his face where his lips awaited, as though he were a proper prince in greeting.
"I would adore this moment, were it shared with you."
Zelda rolled her eyes, allowing only a mischievous smile to cross her face, "You're such a boy. Thinking some sweet words will keep you from trouble."
"It's taken me this far," he confirmed childishly before stepping past the night-swept princess in a stride, making his way toward the kitchen, leaving her to bury her face against her chest, hiding a silent laugh at his bravado that seemed non-existent outside of only the most seemingly inopportune times.
He had always been a man of few words, even as a child, leaving Zelda the task, usually, of making conversation. After so many years of directing such affairs came the source of Zelda's intricate knowledge of this man she had come to love, a window into the depths of a man that could so easily be turned into a weapon, Zelda knew, and while she often toyed with the idea of sinking her teeth into her boy whenever he became as rowdy as he had just become, it had always remained something of a fleeting fantasy.
Instead, she resigned herself to a sigh as she strode toward the kitchen herself, finding Link standing above the kettle with a tepid hand swirling in placid motion as he directed the metal chain along the heated water, the steel ball of tea at its other end following mindlessly while the man's ministrations worked brew from its leaves. He stood upright, his free hand clutched his side absently, leaving Zelda a brief moment to amuse herself with his form, forcing a grin to grace her appearance before Link could turn to shoot her a sidelong glance.
"What?" he asked plainly.
"Nothing," Zelda shrugged, crossing her arms as she leaned her shoulder against the wall, "Just watching."
Link's brow shot upward in sarcastic terror as his attention returned to the kettle, "Afraid I'll discover a way to ruin tea?"
"Not exactly," she offered coyly, noting the tender smirk that appeared atop the source of her attention.
She strolled closer, finally coming to Link's backside, where she reached around him, sliding her hands along his slender stomach, enjoying the subtle slithering of fine hair rolling along the insides of her fingers as they went, finally coming to a stop only after locking Link's torso in her embrace.
"I know tea is a hands-on activity, but that's usually only for the one doing the brewing."
Zelda snapped playfully, "Shut up."
She felt his body shake with silent laughter, allowing her a moment's respite to smile at such a charming reaction. Her cheek, pressed as it was against the broad stretch of warm skin between his shoulders, turned away only to allow her a gentle kiss against his back, in a swatch of skin hidden against bone that forced a shiver along his back.
"I just like watching you like this," she admitted without much further explanation.
Link watched the dark brew with sharp eyes, unable to decipher her meaning before slipping the ball of tea leaves free from the heated water, placing it gently to the side as Zelda's voice returned to his waiting ears.
"I always watched my mother and her friends- mothers of mothers- and then their kin. I saw their subservience to others. and it so terrified me. Thinking of living a half life, split apart from what I truly desire in life."
Her forehead gently slid across his skin in affectionate reprieve, "I don't know. I just fall in love, all over again, watching you unafraid to shoulder the burdens of banality."
"Ah," Link muttered in quiet reply, "You thought me one to loaf around while you tended to my every need."
He glanced over his shoulder to catch her with a glimpse, "That ignores the needs of your own that I'm rather enthused to tend to."
"Shut up," Zelda repeated, still in a teasing fashion, even as she drove a knuckle into Link's side, forcing him to laugh in a quick, tickling fit as he returned to the tea, "I'm being serious."
"As was I," Link assured, his breath leaving him in chorus with the piddling tenor of liquid cupping swirling into the air, filling two small porcelain mugs with the aromatic burst of flavorful tea.
He turned only after Zelda released her hold on him, offering her the mug hanging from his fingers before leaning back against the kitchenette, taking a swipe of air into the nostrils while the tea rested just before his face. Zelda leaned against the wall across from him, emulating him as she had learned to do in their years together, the man's Kokiri roots having taught him the 'proper' of going about these things.
"Rosemary," Link noted quietly, "and baba seed."
Zelda's eyes narrowed, "Baba seed?"
"Probably a Goron extract; they're into some pretty odd things," Link smirked, "You could probably concoct certain potions from those seeds, too."
Curled lips preceding her question, Zelda took a careful sip of the still-scalding tea, "Different than last time."
"Oftentimes, yes," Link nodded, "The leaves change, the soil changes, the air- Little things."
His eyes wandered, as if feeling a spotlight upon him, "I'm not weird, am I?"
Zelda giggled, assuring him steadily, "Of course not."
"It was just another thing back in the forest," Link shrugged, "There wasn't much to do but taste teas and root brew and stuff. We never had 'extra' growing up; our food was essentially what the Deku Tree offered us- never was it too much, nor too little. So you learned to savor it- appreciate it as a gift. Detail it in excruciating detail because any untoward action, and it could all be gone in a moment's time."
His eyes cast toward his mug, hiding his nerves, "But that's all weird stuff, so-"
Hidden partially behind her mug, Zelda watched Link nervously scratch the back of his neck. His enjoyment of his tea seemed tainted, almost, leaving her disillusioned herself. She loved the persnickety manner with which he accepted such a thing.
"I didn't mean to make you so self-conscious of it," Zelda quietly replied.
He nodded, "I know, just-"
Taking an uncertain sip himself, Link took a deep breath through his nose before the swig hit his throat, allowing the taste of the tea to rest along his tongue. That earthily dank, yet playfully subtle bitterness, that which was so characteristic of deku baba seed, lined the edges of his tongue, while the serenity of rosemary rested, almost cupped, toward the center of his pallet.
"I'm not the man I was," he suddenly spoke up in tepid tenor, "I mean-"
His brow coiled in concern, "I've taken a hearty few years' worth of strides since that age we were when we took our final step back in time. My true seventeenth year came and went with me feeling- I don't know."
"Un-hero like?" Zelda surmised with a gentle tone.
"Not even that," Link sighed, taking another sip, "I don't know if I would even want to be the man I was. Not now, anyway. Not when all of that ability would be wasted. But I'm twenty-five now, and my life is just-"
His eyes retreated into the dark recesses of his eyelids, Link's head bowing low as he challenged himself to admit to Zelda what he had already had to admit to himself. He knew her all to well. That any secret of his might be even more guarded within her mind than his own. Still, a fear crept into his mind, as irrational as it might have been; a trepidation that had only calcified with the parents of the only woman he'd ever come to love as a man could ever hope to love another being.
"Now-" he slowed in reply, "What if- What if I'm not ever able to become the man I'm supposed to be without Hyrule forcing it from me?"
Zelda's eyes fell in silent reverie, taking in his words with a reticence that signaled her whole esteem for his admittance. Link had returned to his tea without much else in the way of emotion; clearly, as impactful as this idea had been the last few years, it hadn't chiseled its way too far into his mind, Zelda noted.
His attention perked up as the sound of porcelain clacking against wood broke the air, forcing his eyes upward to find Zelda stepping toward him with an august look on her face, as though in examination, before she stood close enough that a timid breath could break past the distance.
"Link," she spoke with an earnest retort, "I don't know the man whom you were to become back then- before we decided to give back to the world the time it had been stricken of."
Her eyes wavered in thoughtful resonance, "You weren't forced to become anything. Another person, another child- Any other man by any other name could have taken the mantle as you had. But you were the one to answer the call. because your heart and soul were too big to remain confined to that forest. And you had that drive before anything to do with the goddesses or with time itself, so-"
She smirked, sizing him up with a wry glance, "You still have that. along with a host of other attributes that might not have even been a part of you any other way."
Link gave a meandering roll of his eyes in reply, leaving her with a giggle as he grumbled, "You make me look so simple."
"I might despise being shackled to archaic tradition, but I do love you immensely," Zelda assured easily, "Whenever your mind needs to be quelled, I'm here to take care of you. Same as if your body were injured."
Her face fell into his chest, kissing the stroke of depth that ran along his sternum, slowing her movement to feel the subtle sensation of fine hair plucking in wild timbre along her curling lips.
"Regardless of anything else," she confirmed, her chin jammed against him as she turned her head up to peer into his eyes, "Being the only man in my life whom I love, you fill in quite nicely where it counts."
Link's eyes narrowed suspiciously, uncertain as to which entendre she was inserting into the conversation, leaving Zelda able to stick out her tongue in a teasing reply of her own before she returned to her tea.
"There's nothing to be worried about. You love me. That's all that will matter to my parents," she confirmed justly.
"If you say so."
"I do," Zelda swiftly confirmed with a confident smirk, "And you know I'm always right."
Link gave her a look of feigned puzzlement, "Except when we play the night games in the marketplace."
"A dubious enterprise, that one."
Link went on, "When you helped Ihem plant those flowers in the wrong place."
"The earth is an unpredictable mistress."
"Those posters you drew up to advertise the fair, only for it to depict an ancient Zora god destroying the very town where the fair was being held."
Zelda shot him a pithy glare, "Well now you're just picking and choosing…"
Hiding his chuckle into the mug, Link shook his head in disbelief, finishing a swig before turning the cup down once again, leaving him smiling fondly, "It was pretty cool of you to show up in full octopus regalia just to make good on the promise, though."
Even more fondly, allowing herself to return to that time three years ago, Zelda smiled with a nod, "I couldn't let those children down. Gah, they were so excited."
Link directed his attention to the floor as he reminisced, allowing a faint smile to splay across his face. He thought of this woman, so caring yet so unable, then, to know how to direct such endeavors. Her goodwill had so often been foolhardy at best; a trait Link understood all to well to be his saving grace. Had she come into her own without the necessity of instruction, she would have known better than to choose him, Link knew.
"You say that I answered the call," Link returned, warily taking stock of his thoughts before advancing, "But I could've died at any point. Like you said, any man could've made the choice to do what I did. I had a sword put in my hand and got lucky."
He lifted his eyes, peering into her suddenly somber pair, "You were the one with a legacy to live up to, not me."
Releasing a quiet chuckle, Link shook his head before taking a final sip of tea, "You truly are something."
For all their years together- for all the embarrassment levied upon her by this man, to the point where she had grown accustomed to those crimson shades of red burning her face.
The blush scorching her face, now, felt like something wholly new.
Link sat his mug down before pushing himself upright, accepting Zelda's cup as well while she offered it toward him, "How does bed sound? We've got a busy day in Kakariko tomorrow."
"I'll remind you that I wasn't the one who decided to leave that plan a few hours ago," Zelda teased, "I was quite content remaining beneath those warm blankets."
Shrugging, Link gave his hand to her, "Nothing wrong with starting again. Shall we?"
"We shall," Zelda retorted, sticking her tongue out to make a mockery of Link's sudden formality, following along as Link led her toward the bedroom so that the two of them could return to sleep.
Passing the living quarters, however, Link's eyes lingered. He slowed, allowing Zelda to pick up her stride to take him to the bedroom alternatively, though it wasn't simply his plan for her to do so. His eyes had caught sight of something- A chill had flashed down the length of his spine at the recollection of those objects atop the cabinet.
He slid his hand along the wall as Zelda pulled him into the bedroom, an impotent attempt as refusing entry on his part. Like a moth to a flame, his eyes couldn't bear to part with that view; it was almost necessary, yet- he hadn't a clue why. Like an addiction one hasn't a clue they belong to, a ferocious urge shook Link's heart as his mind raced in circles, counting the possible hours before he could leave that bed- before he claim that which he wanted more than anything at this moment.
Before he could grab hold of one of those two remaining pots above the cabinet. Before he could revel in that euphoric sensation brought upon by such an object's destruction once again, if only to sate this sudden desire.